Growing vertically challenged (dwarf) tomatoes

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

Since Iíve recently developed an interest in dwarf tomatoes and will be growing 9 different varieties this season, maybe itís appropriate for me to start the thread to generate conversation on what varieties and how others are growing them and hopefully learn together what works and what doesnít.

I decided that due to space limitations in my raised beds I would grow dwarf tomatoes in five gallon buckets. I have chosen to use Home Depotís plain white buckets at $3.98 each. Iíll probably grow a couple of dwarf tomatoes in a raised bed just to compare results with the bucket grown ones.

The varieties Iím growing are:
New Big Dwarf, Red Robin Heirloom, Taxi, Amber Colored, and Black Sea Man Heirloom.

And from the Dwarf Tomato Project (
Dwarf Sweet Sue, Iditarod Red, Perth Pride, and Sleeping Lady.

While not all dwarf tomatoes are this small, I found this Red Robin variety to be so cute due to itís size, that I wanted to post another picture of it.

Thumbnail by hrp50
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks for this new thread, Hrp50! I'm growing New Big Dwarf (NBD), Siberia, Tasmanian Chocolate, and Dwarf Wild Fred varieties for the first time this season.

I started the Siberia and NBD seeds on December 10th, and today the seedlings (still in 4" pots) are 14" tall, with stems almost as thick as my pinkie finger, and last night I spied one yellow bloom on a seedling! I had to start feed them a very weak MG fert about two weeks ago, because they told me they were hungry...

They'll get potted up and shoved under my hoop this weekend for hardening off. Robust little boogers!

I have several 25-gallon cattle molasses tubs I could use for these little tomato "trees." Will post results, and stay tuned to this channel!


Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

The varieties Iím growing are:
New Big Dwarf, Red Robin Heirloom, Taxi, Amber Colored, and Black Sea Man Heirloom.

And from the Dwarf Tomato Project (
Dwarf Sweet Sue, Iditarod Red, Perth Pride, and Sleeping Lady.


Yes, NBD is a true Dwarf, but I'm not so sure about Red Robin being an heirloom, and I've grown it but only on a window sill in the winter, and am not so sure that I rememember the foliage as being rugose. Yes,if youjGoogle Red Robin there afe many places that say it's a Dwarf heirloom, but if you go to Tania's website she has a ?about history and is pretty particular about getting things right. It's akin to the sitiuation with Arkansa Traveler being an heirloom from theOzarks, It isn't, it was bred by the U of Arkansas and released as Traveler and someone plopped the nameA rkansas on it.

Same for Taxi, in that I've never seen anyone refer to it as a true Dwarf, same comment about foliage.

Amber Colored I grew many many years ago back in the 90's and don't remember it being a dwarf and Black Seaman I' trialed For SSE along with outhern Nights, bothPL dark ones ,when it was sent from their then contact inMoscow, Marie Danilenko and neither were Dwarfs either.

Craig, the co cordinator for the Dwarf Project, and I have known each other for about 24 years no so I've followed the Project since the getgo and have trialed some of them for him. Craig grows his true Dwarfs in usually 5 gal grobags, so for a true Dwarf that should be just fine,

Hope that helps


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Carolyn!

I was thinking that at 4', a fully-loaded dwarf "tree" might be too top-heavy for a 5-gallon bucket or bag.


Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

I looked into the five gallon grow bags you mentioned as an alternative to the 5 gallon plastic buckets I was intending on using but haven't yet purchased. At least as far as the price goes each grow bag, if you buy a 10-bag lot for $5.59, works out to $0.56 each as opposed to $3.98 each for the buckets and I will need about 15.

The selling features of the grow bags as presented on the HTG Supply website are:
ď!!! 6 Mil Thickness!!!
STRONGER and BETTER than other grow bags!
Black Interior and White Exterior for superior performance!
Reflects light back into garden (unlike black grow bags) and black interior does not allow algae growth!Ē

Having never used a grow bag before, how do I decide between grow bags and plastic buckets for my dwarf tomato plants? Should 50 mile per hour wind gusts we have here during the spring figure into my decision?

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I did try green grow bags 4 years ago and they didn't held up with our TX summer heat.
The bags were constantly dry and I had to keep them very wet ... no good results in my garden and too much work.

I cannot wait to see your success with the dwarf tomatoes.

This message was edited Jan 17, 2013 3:42 PM

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

I can see that this is going to be an active thread- dwarfs are such fun- my NBD had very sturdy stems-thicker than a man's thumb- They are sturdy but when loaded with fruit they could be blown over in high wind if they were in a tall bucket such as the 5 gallon ones.

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

If I were a scientist, I would need a control group and at least one experimental group in order to have a valid experiment. Since this dwarf tomato trial is kinda like an experiment, I guess I've got no choice but to try grow bags and plastic buckets to see if one works better than the other. Are there any reasonable alternative methods of growing dwarf tomatoes other than the ones we've addressed?

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

They can be grown along with the other types of tomatoes- they just have a more compact growth habit- I mix tomatoes in with flowers and herbs- they all get along just fine.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

The gro bags that I use aren't that cheap and I'll try to find the link in my faves. They're white, with handles and have drain holes not at the bottom,but a couple of inches up from the bottom whichis better.

Craig buy his grobags from the same place that I do and they come in different sizes.

Wish me good luck b'c I must have close to 2 K links in my faves. LOL

The bags have held up well over the winter, Freda, who has to do all my gardening for me, actually leaves them out in the winter with no covering. And I don't have her change the mix in them each year, just have her top if off in theSpring.

Carolyn, who, if she was still growing plants in rows in her tomato field would be planting the Dwarfs there.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I grew the dwarfs in large pots on the deck, out of the intense Texas afternoon sun. They still got sun and never leaned or got leggy. That's what I really like about them, they have full size fruit but they are portable. The foliage is a deep green and beautiful.

Hrp50 you will be able to tell from the foliage alone that Taxi and Black Seaman aren't dwarfs but they produce nice tomatoes. From my experience Taxi produces pretty much all it's going to produce the first time it sets fruit. BS does MUCH better if it goes out early, that is usually the first plant in my garden.

Carrollton, TX(Zone 8a)

I'm thinking that the most likely group to grow dwarf tomatoes are those that don't have space for a garden, or those with only a small space, but still would like to grow their own tomatoes. This would include people who live in apartments or high rise residential buildings that might only have a small patio, or zero lot line homeowners with not much of a yard. I would like to show that group that even without much space you can still produce home-grown tomatoes as long as you have enough hours of sunlight.

BUda, TX(Zone 8b)

Last year I started out doing a lot of tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets and wasn't really pleased with the results. As an alternative I looked at the Root Pouch bags and tried some of them. They seemed to give a better result, and with less work to make the soil mix vs. the buckets. I will agree with drthor, I don't think the growbags work well in our extreme heat.

A simple phone call with Gymgirl this week got me back on track. Now it's just going to be fun how I'm going to get all the stuff I need accomplished in a few weeks.

The 3 strains I purchased from Victory Seed last summer were NBD, Dwarf Champion and Dwarf Giant (Burpee's) Tomato. Will have to see how they do this year.

BTW, A.M. Leonard has the Root Pouches for a very good price. 5-gallon with handles are $1.09 each with a purchase of 30. That makes them decently affordable...

Dearborn, MI

I've grown the dwarf tomatoes in the 5 gallon global buckets and in grow bags. The maintainence if much greater with the bags. The global buckets have that reservoir of water in the bottom that is available to the plants all day, so they are less likely to dry out. I have mine hooked up to a homemade irrigation system. I plant the dwarfs in them and in the ground, because they are little tomato making machines. The picture is one days picking from Summertime Gold last summer. That was grown in an homemade "earthbox" with another plant in the container. From the dwarf project, I have also grown Rosella Purple, Tasmanian Chocolate and Dwarf Beryl Beauty and really like them The Dwarf Beryl Beauty I use for making green salsa. This year I have seeds for Iditarod Red to try. Still waiting for a great orange to come out of the project. I have long grown NBD as a staple red tomato. Another variety a lot of folks to give a thumbs up to Lime Green Salad.

One other small plant I really like is Magyar Piros Boker. The red tomatoes have very good flavor and the plant is determinate, so I use this variety for the times when I want a lot of ripe tomatoes at one time.

Thumbnail by nancyruhl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Those tomatoes are huge! From a dwarf tree? WOW!!

I checked my seedlings, last night, and the dwarf varieties look like baby elephants in a room full of puppies!

This is gonna be fun!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I bought a bunch of Root Pouch Bags on sale at the end of last season. I've never seen anybody mention them before but they were cheaper then grow bags. I'm looking forward to using then now, after reading about others experiences.

I have 26 acres and I still grow the dwarfs in containers and in ground but by reading hrp50s posts there still seems to be some confusion about what a smaller determinate plant is verses a dwarf. Taxi and Black Seaman aren't dwarf plants. Nothing in their growth habit would suggest that, but they are smaller tomato plants. Maybe I'm missing something....

Dearborn, MI

The thread says vertically challenged tomatoes. To me that means small space tomatoes. In looking at the new dwarfs being offered, they appear to be indeterminate, as is New Big Dwarf. Tatiana's tomatobase lists Taxi as a good container variety, so I would assume that it is not a large plant. Black Sea Man has no indicator that it is a smaller plant, however. Of the varieties I mentioned, Magyar Piros Boker and Lime Green Salad are determinate.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Strange, Tomato Growers lists NBD as Determinate, and Tania's says Indeterminate. I know mine last year were not quite 3ft tall. But what they are called doesn't matter to me--as long as they are good! I don't get caught up in the minute details-I like to keep things simple.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

The thread says (dwarf) tomatoes. With the Dwarf Project there are now plants that are true dwarfs not just smaller plants. Determinate also applies to fruit set. Most determinates put all their fruit on at one time. I've noticed that with Taxi but not with say, Early Girl. The only thing I'm sure about Black Seaman is that they taste fantastic.

As far as plants doing well in containers. There are many DG members that grow all their plants in containers (earth boxes to 5 gallon buckets) regardless of the size of the plants. I've done this too but I had better yield In ground except with the real Dwarfs. They did great in a large container, producing many regular size tomatoes, on a dwarf plant, over the whole season,

Totally Tomatoes refers to BS as short,determine, potato leaf plants. That has also been my experience.

This message was edited Jan 18, 2013 11:57 PM

Albersbach, Germany

This is a picture of Yukon Quest from the Grumpy line I grew in 2010 for the Dwarf project. One thing these plants need is support, if not the weight of the fruits will break the branches. This plant is being grown in a 2 gal. container.

Thumbnail by amideutch
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

wow., it is a really beautiful plant.
after these tomatoes matured, did the plant produce more fruits?

The smallest I've grown was Micro Tina. The plant only grew about 6 inches tall. It was really more of a novelty than anything else. I think I had 2 in this pot (pic below) which was an 8" wide pot if my memory serves.

I'd like to try some dwarf plants inside this year in the heat of the summer when nothing sets fruit down here. Has anyone had experience with any of the following: Patio, Totem, Lizzano, Terenzo, Tumbler, and Tumbling Tom (red or yellow)?


Thumbnail by LouisianaMark
Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Micro Tina is such an adorable plant.
Did it produce more tomatoes after the ones in this picture?

I think it set some more. You can see flowers and buds in the pic, and I did get quite a few seeds. I think I grew this in 2006, so its been a while.

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